JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – Johnny Bruce has built a career as an educator, coach, administrator and county commissioner, but now faces one of his stiffest challenges as the new chairman of the commission – how to make the meetings and workshops move more quickly and efficiently.   WATCH HERE.

Aided by a short public comment list, the workshop last week ended in slightly less than two hours, giving the new chairman reason for optimism. At the end of this week’s regular meeting, however, Bruce felt it necessary to admonish commissioners to deal with details on many topics at committee meetings, pointing out that the group spent “over 20 minutes on sanitation issues that should have been handled in committee.”

Sanitation and building and grounds issues actually dominated much of Monday’s meeting, as Ralph Davis, who chairs both committees, had a long grocery list of motions along with a lengthy report on the numerous improvements that have been made in the sanitation department since new director Bill Rutherford was hired in January.

The commission unanimously approved one Davis motion to seek bids to replace doors in the upstairs part of the courthouse and another to authorize Davis to meet with Jellico and state officials in an effort to secure grant money to help pay for a new building in Jellico that would house both county field offices and Jellico Utilities offices.

Davis then made a motion to approve a sanitation committee decision to seek a $500,000 grant to purchase and install compactors at the county’s convenience centers and another to declare surplus 17 used wheel hubs and exchange those hubs to the tire distributor for $75 each in credit toward future tire purchases. Both motions were approved unanimously.

Davis then renewed his ongoing feud with Mayor E. L. Morton, presenting a letter that he had prepared that, he explained, would clarify the role of the commission liaison to the sanitation and maintenance departments.

The letter stated that the purpose of the commissioner serving as liason for both departments “is for communication between the department director/supervisor and the commission, as well as a representative for employees of such departments should they not feel comfortable” going to their department supervisor.

The letter continues to dictate that inquiries made to Morton’s office regarding matters of either department would be directed to the director of the department “and/or the chairman of the committee, not the department liaison.”

This letter would bypass Charles Baird, the liaison elected by the commission and instead direct public inquiries or complaints to Davis, who chairs both committees. At the workshop last week, Davis had complained that some calls concerning sanitation issues had gone to  Morton’s office, although Morton had been removed from control of the department.

At the meeting, Davis asked if Morton would sign the letter, which was basically a memorandum of understanding.

“You don’t need my signature,” Morton replied.

Davis then made a motion, seconded by Scott Stanfield, for the commission to request the mayor’s signature on the memorandum. This motion passed, but not by the usual unanimous vote. First term commissioners Zachary Marlow, Dewayne Baird and Tyler King all voted “no” as the motion passed 9-3.  (CORRECTION:  Commissioners Dewayne Baird, Tyler King and Scott Kitts voted “no”)

Morton only had one item to add to the agenda, the possibility of partnering with Highland Telephone to seek a $472,000 grant to expand broadband service into rural Campbell County. His request met with resistance, after Finance Director Jeff Marlow and attorney Joe Coker both brought up potential problems.

The county failed to secure a 100 percent grant last year and the amount needed to complete the project is more than the $472,000 available this year. There are legal problems with the county partnering with a non-governmental entity.

After several minutes of discussion with no motion offered, Bruce directed that the details should be worked out in committee before the matter is brought up before the full commission.

Dewayne Baird and Scott Kitts both brought to the commission’s attention a letter each had received from Property Assessor Brandon Partin, responding to inquiries they made after the workshop when some taxpayers were complaining that their tax bills went up despite the commission’s vote to lower the tax rate.

In his letter, Partin conducted a short seminar on how tax assessment works, explaining that the state certified tax rate in a reappraisal year is an average of total property values in the county, but some property could be expected to have been increased in value, through improvements or other factors.

Partin, responding to criticism from some commissioners, added in his letter that, “However, had the commission approved the tax rate of $2.25, like was intended, each individual would no doubt have seen a large increase.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 10/22/2019-6AM)